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Jeff Beck - Jeff Beck Group CD (album) cover

JEFF BECK GROUP

Jeff Beck

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.16 | 31 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The original Jeff Beck Group, whose core members included Rod Stewart, Nicky Hopkins and Ron Wood, were a volatile, rowdy and explosive band of musicians that helped to pioneer the genre of hard rock that came to be dominated by groups like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. The big drawback of inspired but combustible combinations of high- strung personalities is that sometimes they combust and that's what happened to those guys after they made two groundbreaking albums together. While Rod and Ron ran off to be in The Faces and Nicky went back to being a coveted session rat, Jeff almost joined up with the former Vanilla Fudge rhythm section of Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice. But then he fractured his skull in a bad car accident and his rehab forced him to be out of commission for a year and a half. Starting over from scratch in 1971, Beck started a new band and veered off in a musical direction that had substantial R&B influences while retaining his trademark heavy rock mannerisms. After "Rough and Ready" was greeted with mixed reviews Jeff took the group to Memphis, Tennessee and hired the seasoned guitarist and arranger Steve Cropper to produce a fresh batch of songs, attempting to capture some of the soulful flavor of Dixie on their 2nd LP. Like the previous album, however, it turned out to be an inconsistent, hit and miss affair.

Jeff's "Ice Cream Cakes" is an enticing opening song that leads you to think they might really be on to something this time. Bob Tench's raspy vocal is relaxed and he seems more comfortable than before. Beck's ever-unique guitar work is stellar as he works his magic throughout the tune. Cozy Powell's drums are interesting but there's still a slight unsteadiness in his technique that has always bugged me about him. Max Middleton's solid electric piano ride adds a nice touch toward the end. "Glad All Over" is next, a barrelhouse rock and roll ditty that's mildly entertaining but nothing to write home about. Their competent version of Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" follows. They put a bluesy, gospel-tinged spin on it and it gives Tench a chance to display his versatility. "Sugar Cane" is a Beck/Cropper tune performed New Orleans style ala Dr. John but there's not much originality here when all is sung and done. "I Can't Give Back the Love I Feel For You" is their instrumental rendition of an Ashford/Simpson number and Jeff pulls out his bottleneck slide for this one, creating some interesting harmony lines but the short song is over before it gathers any real momentum.

"Going Down" is the best track on the album by far and one of my all-time favorite Jeff Beck recordings. It's an unabashed rocker from one end to the other and brings to mind the kind of raw energy and electricity that characterized "Truth" and "Beck-Ola." Middleton's wonderful upright piano intro sets up the tune perfectly and it's one primo Beck-lick after another from then on. It generates a motivating, tight groove and easily stands the test of time as almost seven minutes of driving blues-rock at its finest. Unfortunately the remainder of the LP fails to impress. Their ill-advised offering of Stevie Wonder's "I Got To Have A Song" is an embarrassingly weak attempt at manufacturing a hit single. "Highways" is Jeff's awkward mix of rock and contemporary jazz that never finds the road to fulfillment as it meanders without purpose for almost five minutes. Max comes in towards the end with some tasteful electric piano but it's a case of too little too late. Still, it's better than the album ender, Beck's "Definitely Maybe." While somewhat indicative of the jazzier direction he was to take in the years ahead, this tepid instrumental never gets off the ground and some of the tinny harmony guitar parts are downright annoying. As producer, Cropper should have put a cap in this one.

There's very little material that can be called prog included here (if any) but I consider this period of Jeff Beck's musical journey as little more than a brief detour that he needed to explore before moving on to bigger and better things. In 1972 this group disbanded and Jeff finally assembled the long-anticipated Beck, Bogert and Appice power trio that returned him (briefly) to his heavy rock roots. This album (featuring an unexplained orange on the front and back cover) isn't terrible but it's very mediocre. If not for "Ice Cream Cakes" and "Going Down" it would be a blemish on Jeff's admirable career but those two songs elevate it to just barely above average quality. 2.6 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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